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If you are working, according to how the SSA defines work, then you cannot be paid SSDI or SSI benefits. However, work has a very specific meaning under SSA’s rules. Work is defined by the SSA as “substantial gainful activity“(SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (after medical work costs) is considered to be working or earning money at the SGA level. Under SSA’s rules, a person who is working at the SGA level cannot be paid SSDI or SSI benefits.

If you cannot work for over one year, then you should file an application for Social Security Disability benefits (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. In order to receive benefits, you must first file an application. You can do this online at Social Security’s website.

Additionally, please remember prior to filing an application, that SSDI and SSI benefits are designed for people who cannot work at any job. Please don’t think you can work and also get Social Security benefits. Because, no matter what anyone tells you. It is not true.


Below, please find an explanation as to each type of benefit you can file for:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI):  

SSDI benefits are for those who have worked and can no longer work at any job due to a medical condition. The amount of money you will receive from SSDI benefits every month is based on how much Social Security tax you have paid during your work history. To qualify for SSDI, you must have earned enough “work credits” to qualify.

A work credit is an amount of taxable income. You can earn up to 4 work credits per year. The amount of work credits you will need will depend on how old you are when you apply. If you haven’t earned enough work credits for your age at the time you apply, then you will only qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI):  

SSI is a needs based benefit. It is for those people who have a severe medical condition and little to no income, such as children and the elderly. Anyone who makes more than a certain amount of money per month cannot receive SSI benefits. The SSA counts the income of those who live in your home, not just your income and assets. If you have a spouse who earns more than $4000 a month, for example, then that income will prevent you from getting SSI benefits. You cannot qualify for SSI benefits, no matter how severe your medical condition, if you do not meet the income and asset rules for SSI.


The SSA defines SGA work as “doing significant physical or mental activities . . . for pay or profit.” They also state that “significant activities” accomplish a job and have value in the economy. Or, in other words, you are paid to do work.

Work may count as “work,” even if it is done on a part time basis. Additionally, it may still be substantial work, even if you do less, are paid less, or have less responsibility than in previous work. Learn more information about work skills.

Work activity by an employee is gainful if it is the kind of work usually done for pay, whether for cash or for goods. Activities such as caring for yourself and chores around the house are not work. Likewise, unpaid training, hobbies, and going to school are not work. Clubs and social programs are also not considered to be SGA.

definition of the word work.


Below, you will find a chart that defines the monthly amount of money you can earn in any given year before SGA applies. As you can see, there is a difference between those who are blind and those who are not blind. People who are blind can earn more money every month, but still be below SGA.

Also, the SGA amount is your gross earnings per month. This means before taxes are taken out. Many people, for example, assume that their take home pay is what the SSA counts as SGA. Unfortunately, that is not correct. SGA is the full amount you make per month, including taxes or any other withholdings.

Monthly substantial gainful activity amounts by disability type
Year Blind Not blind
1976 $230 $230
1977 240 240
1978 334 260
1979 375 280
1980 417 300
1981 459 300
1982 500 300
1983 550 300
1984 580 300
1985 610 300
1986 650 300
1987 680 300
1988 700 300
1989 740 300
1990 780 500
1991 810 500
1992 850 500
1993 880 500
1994 930 500
1995 $940 $500
1996 960 500
1997 1,000 500
1998 1,050 500
1999 1,110 700
2000 1,170 700
2001 1,240 740
2002 1,300 780
2003 1,330 800
2004 1,350 810
2005 1,380 830
2006 1,450 860
2007 1,500 900
2008 1,570 940
2009 1,640 980
2010 1,640 1,000
2011 1,640 1,000
2012 1,690 1,010
2013 1,740 1,040
2014 1,800 1,070
2015 $1,820 $1,090
2016 1,820 1,130
2017 1,950 1,170
2018 1,970 1,180
2019 2,040 1,220
2020 2,110 1,260
2021 2190 1310
2022 2260 1,350
2023 2460 1,410
2024 2590 1,550


Many people think they can work and still be paid benefits. However, this is simply not true. The SSA has a specific amount of money that you can earn on a monthly basis. If you earn over that amount, then you are working SGA. Therefore, you cannot receive SSD benefits. Work makes you unable to file an application and to receive both SSDI and SSI benefits. People who are working and also getting an SSDI check are committing fraud. Social Security benefits are for people who cannot work and are likely to never work again.

If you try to work and you earn under the SGA amount or your work doesn’t last more than a few months, then you can still file for SSD benefits. Some people try to work despite their severe illness. Learn more about whether a medical condition is a barrier to work.

Working a few hours a week should not hurt your chances of being paid benefits. However, if you work for a  longer period of time, then your attorney will need to ask the judge to apply the rules of an unsuccessful work attempt.

Most people, however, with a mental or physical condition find that they cannot work 40 hours a week or even work on a part time basis. That is why they are filing for benefits. SSDI benefits replace monthly income. Additionally, SSDI benefits come with Medicare benefits. Medicare benefits are a form of health insurance. These benefits are important if you have a severe illness. Medicare benefits start 29 months after your onset date of disability. The 29 months, for example, includes your five month waiting period and a 2 year waiting period.


At our law office, we help our clients file an application for SSDI and SSI benefits. Also, we appeal SSA’s denials. If you need to apply for benefits, then you can do so online at Social Security’s website. It doesn’t matter where you live in the country, the above table applies to you.

If you live in Utah, then we have Utah SSDI information. We also have Nevada SSD benefit information. The same amount of money in the above table defines SGA. This is true even if the cost of living is higher in California than Nevada. Learn more about California SSD benefits.

If you have questions about work and your benefits, then contact our office. We will answer your questions for free. Also, we offer a free review of your case. Additionally, we do not charge an attorney fee unless we win your benefits. If we don’t win, then you don’t have to pay an attorney fee. If you need SSD benefits or SSI benefits, then contact our law firm.

We will help you apply for benefits or appeal an SSA denial. You can contact us by phone or by email. We can often answer your questions about working and benefits over the phone. Give us a call today. Hire us be your legal team. Put our experience to work for you.


You do not need to file for Social Security benefits by yourself. You can always call our law firm and we will help you file your application. Also, we can help you fix mistakes. For example, our attorneys and staff can:

If you file your application for benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. Once you submit your application online, the SSA sends you an application summary in the mail. You must sign the summary and mail it back. If you don’t send it back, the SSA will not process your application. Sign it and send it back as soon as you can. Benefits are tied to the date you apply. Therefore, every day you wait to apply is a day you lose benefits.


If you cannot work due to a severe physical or mental medical condition, then Cannon Disability Law can help you apply for SSD benefits. Also, we can help you appeal an SSA denial. Additionally, we will represent you in court at your Social Security hearing. Unlike most law firms, we will also help you testify in your case. We do this by meeting with you before your hearing and telling you the questions the judge is likely to ask in court.

If necessary, we can appeal your case to the Appeals Council. Likewise, we file appeals in Federal Court. Also, we can represent you where you live. For example, we can represent you if need an attorney in Utah or Nevada. Additionally, we can help you if you live in Idaho, Colorado, or California. Learn more about California SSDI benefits. Likewise, read more about Idaho SSD benefit information. Also, learn more about Utah SSD benefits.

Your ability to receive Medicaid and Medicare depends upon whether or not you are successful with your claim. In order to fight the SSA’s denials, you need a lawyer with experience. Hire us. Dianna Cannon has been helping people win benefits for over thirty years. Likewise, Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers also have many years of  experience fighting the SSA. We have won over 20,000 SSD and SSI hearings for out clients. You can trust us to do our best for you. We will do everything we can to win your SSD and SSI benefits.

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